Friday, August 21, 2009

One Art, Redux

I have 15 minutes to write one quick post before we head off on vacation one last time before the End of Summer. We've been frantically packing, washing, laundry-ing, and knocking stuff off our lists and now have to run out the door to pick up MG at camp and then hit the road!

I have been LOSING stuff all day-- or rather-discovering that stuff cannot be found. Most notably a Special Present that we secretly bought for MG and I then put in a Special Place, where it is not any more and neither of us knows where it is. I've been grieving over this all day.

I have to wonder about lost stuff-- I don't think it's just a function of our overstuffed lives and our overstuffed memories that we're constantly misplacing things. Surely this has been happening for centuries? I mean that Elizabeth Bishop poem, One Art-- one of my very favorite poems in the world-- was written several decades ago, and though it ends with an emotional one-two punch that hits hard, I can't help but think that part of her inspiration must have been that she was constantly losing actual, non-metaphorical stuff and it was driving her crazy.

And there's a notable incident in part of the Laura Ingalls Wilder story-- not the Little House books, but some later chronicle, when she's grown up and she and Rose are moving, maybe to Missouri, and she puts a $100 bill somewhere secret and then she and Rose look for it and it is just missing!

And Holden Caulfield leaving the fencing equipment on the subway...

I guess people have been losing stuff throughout history. And misplacing things. Especially when they're packing to travel. It makes you wonder about nomadic cultures. My sister-in-law and I had a fun time the other day when she was visiting, imagining the bickering between prehistoric couples: "Where's the pointy rock? The good one?" "I thought you brought it!" "No, I couldn't find it. You're always going on about how great it is for skinning and all, so I thought YOU already had it." "Why would I take it? Bringing the rocks is YOUR department! I have enough to do getting all the food together, not to mention the kids!"

Well. At least I can take some comfort in imagining that I'm part of a millenia-old tradition.

See you in September!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Back on the grid

So, vacation was good. We slept in the camper van. We did not have campfires because there is a burn ban all over the area but that was okay partly because it was so hot. We ate very very well. We had ice cream in the afternoon most days, and most days I played the ukulele. The Renaissance Woman and I worked out--all on our own-- the ukulele and guitar chords to "Free Man in Paris". I read four books and started a fifth. The Mermaid Girl was bribed to wash all the day's dishes, twice.

We visited local craftspeople (guided by the helpful roadside "Artisan" signs), like the glassblower who sold hummingbird feeders, and the German (we think) toymaker who used to teach at a Waldorf school in Tel Aviv and who gave out impassioned printed screeds on the importance of children playing with natural materials and using their imaginations.

We didn't wear most of the clothes that we packed, because it was too hot. Actually, for the last several days of the vacation all I wore was, in various combinations, my bathing suit and/or a big pink sarong (which also served at various times as a picnic blanket, a shawl, a towel, and a blanket) and/or an increasingly filthy tie-dyed sundress.

We went to several beaches, one excellent pool with water slide, and one lovely river. We drank cider in the evenings. We met up with one old friend, and her daughter, who is rapidly becoming one of the Mermaid Girl's favorite people, but aside from that it was mostly just the three of us. We took a lot of ferries, to the Sunshine Coast (which I had not realize is actually more like an island because it is only reachable by ferry. Or helicopter, I guess) and Vancouver Island and Denman and Hornby and then Denman again and Vancouver Island again and then Galiano and then Vancouver Island *again*. And then, today, home.

For ten days I didn't look at a computer screen, and barely talked on a cell phone, or any kind of phone for that matter. After the second day my iPod batteries ran down and the setup I'd put together to recharge it didn't work and I went to sleep without any podcasts in my ear. And while we did eat out sometimes, and buy some things, and occasionally looked at a newspaper headline in some little general store where we were buying ice cream or milk or fresh shrimp for dinner, mostly it felt like we were living in our own dream world.

Tonight we drove off the ferry and back to our neighborhood. We stopped for sushi and then went home. We emptied the van's fridge and the cooler and washed all the food that had milk spilled on it, and threw a bunch of things out. RW was inspired to clean out the fridge while we were at it. I waded through screens of unread e-mail and found out that nothing much had happened while I was gone. I checked the physical mail and found my new New Yorker. I checked my podcasts and found that I'd missed a new This American Life episode. I checked Facebook and my friends' blogs and found out what's been up with everyone. MG logged onto Webkinz to register the new stuffed animal she'd bought with her trip money and the dishwashing money. We frantically aired out the hot, stuffy house, and contemplated sleeping in the van one more night, just because it was cooler. Instead, we sat on the porch for a while, enjoying the view and the cool air and the lack of bugs.

Today, when we made our ice cream stop, MG opted for sour candies instead: "We've had ice cream every day," she said wearily. RW and I figured this was a good sign that she was ready for our trip to be over. And, truth be told, we were ready, too. We were happy to see our home, our porch, our neighborhood, happy not to be eating out of a cranky camper-van fridge, happy to have our own spaces and to see our home and our cat again.

But I can't quite believe that I have to get up tomorrow morning and wear clothes and go to work. I can't quite assimilate all the media in front of and around me. I can't bring myself to still the message-blink of the phone by going through all our new messages. Not quite yet, anyway.

I miss hearing the river, and seeing all the trees around us. I miss jumping in the water every day, and packing up our house every couple of days and heading for a new island. I miss being able to focus because there were fewer things to focus on.

I like it here, on the grid, plugged in to everything that's going on near and far. But it can be bumpy, slotting myself back into it.